What would Solomon say if he could see what I have done with the symbolism of the Song of Solomon? What would John say if he could see how I have repackaged the symbolism of Revelation? Would they be happy? Would they slap me on the back and say, “Good job, little buddy, you figured it out!”

No. I’m confident they would not praise my work at all. Rather they would say, “Paul, “What are you doing? These are symbols. Don’t analyze them; just feel them!”

To which I would have to answer, “You are right. But I am not able to just feel your symbolism. I don’t know your language, your culture, and your thought processes well enough to feel them; I have to analyze your symbolism because that’s all I have left.” The people of that day naturally knew what the symbolism meant. They did not have to analyze it; they felt the response immediately from deep inside them. But for us that is not an option.

Dear reader, think of the times you have had to explain a joke to a child. When you have to explain a joke, it ruins the joke! Every time a joke is explained it no longer seems funny. Jokes are intended to be understood immediately, without being analyzed. They elicit an automatic response of laughter, or they aren’t a good joke. What I am doing by explaining the symbolism in my paraphrase column is similar to explaining a joke. It would be much better if we could all feel the response to these word pictures immediately and without analysis. But alas, we can’t feel them immediately, so we have to analyze them, figure them out, put them back together and then say, “Oh, so that’s what it means.” Granted, we do feel some emotional response at that point, but it is not really the way symbolism is supposed to work.

I submit to you that, even though I/we are doing it wrong by analyzing something that should be felt automatically, when you read my paraphrase of The Song or of Revelation, you will find new energy, power, and impact in these books of the Bible which so many people have come to dislike. Even though we are doing it wrong, we are amazed at the richness in their meaning and how these ancient word pictures preach powerfully to us today. We need to remember that they are not our symbols, they are their symbols. When we learn to interpret them the way the people of that day did, our eyes are opened to a whole new world of understanding.

How much more powerful these books would have been for the people that day! The impact was immediate and undiluted. When we see it in this light it is no wonder that the Song of Solomon was called “Solomon’s song of songs!” If the phrase “King of kings” means “the King over all kings,” “song of songs” means “the song that is better than all other songs.” Its rich symbolism takes Solomon’s song to level that is far beyond normal music.